Seahorses and Pipefish: Cousins of the Reef

Tweetby Susan Spann Most people recognize seahorses at once, almost instinctively. Their distinctive bodies and curled-up tails are familiar even to those who have never seen one in an aquarium or the wild. Pipefish are more unusual, and far [...]

Hanging Out With a Noren

TweetBy Susan Spann If you’ve eaten sushi anywhere, or visited Japan, you’ve probably seen a noren–though you might not have realized it at the time.  Noren are traditional Japanese doorway hangings. Most noren are constructed [...]

Bumblebees of the Sea

Tweetby Susan Spann I’m not only a mystery writer and ninja enthusiast–I’m also an avid aquarium keeper. As such, I often have the chance to share some things most people never see. In the coming weeks, my Saturday posts will [...]

Shinobi Shuko: the Ninja’s Climbing Claws

Tweetby Susan Spann Ninjas are famous for climbing walls with the ease and grace of a spider. According to legend, ninjas could scale even impossibly high, completely polished surfaces with ease. Some myths even claimed they could fly. In [...]

Seppuku: Ritual Suicide in Samurai Japan

Tweetby Susan Spann Seppuku (sometimes also referred to as hara-kiri) is a form of Japanese ritual suicide. Many Westerners recognize this Japanese form of suicide, in which a person (often, but not always, male) slits his own stomach with [...]

In Japan, the Floors Can Sing

Tweetby Susan Spann In medieval Japan, some castles (and other buildings) were constructed with special floors that made a squeaking or chirping sound to alert the residents to intruders (or anyone else) walking across the floorboards. Visitors [...]

Independence Day Trivia – How Much Do You Know?

Tweet by Susan Spann Most of us know that the July 4th holiday (celebrated in the United States) is also known as Independence Day. However … how much do you really know about the day that most of us spend by the pool, eating hot dogs, [...]

Shuriken: the Ninja Star

Tweetby Susan Spann If I asked you to name a ninja weapon, the most common answers would be a sword and a shuriken, which many people call a “throwing star.” In reality, “shuriken” translates “behind-the-hand knife” [...]

Japan’s Female Ninjas: the Kunoichi

TweetBy Susan Spann The Hollywood ninja dresses in black, appears from the shadows, and strikes without warning. He’s also usually male. In reality, not all ninjas were male, and they didn’t all lurk in shadows. Female ninjas, called [...]

The Seven Disguises Used by Real Ninjas

TweetBy Susan Spann Hollywood likes to portray the ninja in black pajamas, scaling a roof to assassinate a samurai. In reality, ninjas, also called shinobi, were more like spies. Assassinations played a role (as did those famous dark pajamas) [...]